A Friday night crash claimed the life of three fraternity brothers after their plane struck a pickup truck shortly before takeoff.
Those killed, David Cheney, 22; William “BJ” Hannigan III, 24; and Marcelo Rugini, 24; knew each other through the Lamda Chi Alpha fraternity at the University of Maine. Cheney was the fraternity president and a business major. Hannigan had graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.
Rugini was an exchange student from Muliterno, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil as was an economics major.
As the men were heading north on a Knox County Regional Airport runway, the four-passenger Cessna 172, piloted by Hannigan, clipped a truck. The plane continued to take off, but as it climbed and turned east, it began to dive into the nearby woods. Upon impact, the aircraft burst into flames.
Those who witnessed the crash immediately drove out to try to save the passengers, but were unable to do so.
Police say airport staff has confirmed the truck was authorized to be on the runway. It was being driven by a pilot who was picking up another pilot who had recently put his plane in a hanger.
The Associated Press:
All trucks at the airport are equipped with radios to pick up any traffic from planes, airport manager Jeff Northgraves said. He said planes are required to radio their positions before, during and after takeoff. He said it wasn’t known yet whether the plane that crashed had radioed its actions.
Hannigan had recently gotten his pilot’s license and wanted to take his friends for a ride. He was still working on his flight hours.
In a statement from the University of Maine, vice president for student affairs and dean of students Robert Dana said the school’s Greek and international student communities are mourning the loss of three of their own, but they are not alone in their grief.”
Dana went on to say the deaths are “a loss for the entire UMaine community and the many people — including faculty and staff — whose lives they touched. They brought great light and energy to our campus, and we will miss them.”